From impunity to justice: Improving corporate policies to end technology-related violence against women

6 March 2015

By Rima Athar (author) and Richa Kaul Padte (editor)

Download the fulltext report below or here.

The summary report can be downloaded here.

The present report explores women’s experiences of and demands for corporate accountability in cases of technology-related violence against women (VAW) . This report summarises some of the most common obstacles to resolving technology-related VAW under current corporate policy frameworks, and uses examples of existing company policies to shed light on best practices and possible solutions to women’s demands for corporate accountability.

The research was carried out between April 2013 and June 2014 by the Association for Progressive Communications (APC) as part of a multi-country project entitled “Ending violence: Women’s rights and safety online”. The research was conducted in collaboration with partners located in seven countries: OneWorldSEE in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Colnodo in Colombia, Si Jeunesse Savait in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the International Association of Women in Radio and Television and KICTANet in Kenya, an APC project associate in Mexico, Bytes for All in Pakistan, and the Foundation for Media Alternatives in the Philippines.

Here, in-depth case studies on survivors’ experiences, their attempts to access justice, reviews of corporate policies, and interviews with public policy representatives have been evaluated with reference to
a) national telephony companies,
b) social media and networking platforms, and
c) pornography websites.
A total of 24 case studies were documented across the seven countries, and the policies of 22 companies were reviewed.

The scope of the report is limited by the fact that of the 22 companies reviewed here, only six made themselves available for interviews. Therefore the report represents the data that was available to the research teams, but notes that the companies reviewed may be taking other steps towards addressing technology-related VAW that have not been publicised.

Research teams reviewed the policies of the following companies:

  • Social media and networking platforms: Facebook, Twitter, Google+, YouTube, Instagram, and WordPress.

  • National telephony companies (telephone, mobile phone, internet services): BH Telecom (Bosnia and Herzegovina); Claro, Empresa de Telecomunicaciones de Bogotá (Colombia): AirTel (DRC); Safaricom (Kenya); TelCel, IUSACell, Prodigy (Mexico); Pakistan Telecommunications Company Ltd. (PTCL); Smart Communications Inc. (SMART, Philippines: ), Global Telecommunications Inc., and Philippines Long Distance Telephone Co. (PLDT).

  • Search engines and portals: Google, Colombia; Microsoft (Bing/MSN Messenger), Colombia; Yahoo!, Philippines.

  • Pornography websites: Xvideos; YouPorn

The report is comprised of
• Trends and tensions within corporate policy frameworks and a snapshot of the violations documented in the research.
• A discussion of possible steps companies can take to address technology-related VAW.
• A discussion of the role that liability has played in shaping company policies and practices.
• A summary of different international human rights guidelines and how companies have incorporated these into their practices.
• Recommendations for a) individuals seeking recourse from companies for technology-related VAW, b) strategies for women and human rights advocates, and c) areas for further research.

To read more on the research findings click here

Table of contents

Section I: Introduction………………………………….5

1.Background to the research………………………………….5
1.1 Research method…………………………………..6
1.2 Analytical framework………………………………….6
2.Companies reviewed………………………………….7
3.Report structure………………………………….8

Section II: Trends and tensions within corporate policy frameworks………………………………….9

1.National telephony companies………………………………….9
1.1 Summary of violations………………………………….9
1.2 Steps to address technology-related VAW………………………………….9

2.Social media and networking platforms………………………………….20
2.1 Summary of violations………………………………….20
2.2 Steps to address technology-related VAW………………………………….20

3.Pornography websites………………………………….30
3.1 Summary of violations………………………………….30
3.2 Steps to address technology-related VAW………………………………….31

Section III: Exploring legal liability………………………………….35

Section IV. Committing to human rights………………………………….38

Section V: Summary and recommendations………………………………….40

1.Information for individuals seeking redress………………………………….40
2.Strategies for advocates………………………………….41
3.Areas for further research………………………………….42

Annex 1. Ensuring compliance with the UN Guiding Principles: A checklist for addressing violence against women………………………………….43

This research is part of the APC “End violence: Women´s rights and online safety” project funded by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs (DGIS).

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